Wednesday, January 18, 2017

2 Why You Need a "Good" Agent: 6 Questions with Melinda Braun

We're excited to welcome Melinda Braun, author of AVALANCHE and STRANDED, to the blog as she discusses, what it means to have a good agent, revision and reading negative reviews. 


1. What advice would you give to first-time writers?

My advice to first-time writers is one word. Read. Read everything. Read awesome stories, read things you don't like as well, or maybe find boring. The more you read, the more you will understand what "good" writing is! And exactly why it's good. Read all the books by your favorite author. Start to ask yourself questions like: Why do I like this? Why do I think it's good? Examine the sentences, the paragraphs, the word choice, the dialogue. You'll start to see patterns; you'll be able to articulate why something works and also why it doesn't. Read classic literature, read horror, read science fiction, read memoir and history. Practice writing a story like a particular author would. Copy it. There's nothing wrong with imitating a style you like, and as you read more and more you will unconsciously accumulate bits and pieces until you have your own style.


2. What one thing do you feel made the most difference in getting you from aspiring author to published author?

I would have to say the one thing that made the difference in getting published (at least traditionally) was getting a literary agent. A good agent has contacts to editors, understands the marketplace and what's selling, and can open doors that the rest of us can't. A good agent will negotiate a contract for you, as well as explain it! My first contract was many pages, all written in legal jargon. Even though I have a degree in English, it was incredibly helpful and necessary to have an agent go through it with me. It's imperative to know what you're signing and what rights you have. So many people are so eager to publish that they will sign all their rights away and not even realize it. A good agent is like a good coach and they definitely earn their commission! It's in their best interest to get you the best deal possible as well as further your career as an author.


3. What is your writing/revision process? Is it the same for every book, or does it change from book to book?

My writing process is very simple. I sit down in a chair at a table or desk and start scribbling! I write my rough drafts long hand in notebooks or legal pads, and I type as I go. Usually I write 5-10 pages at a time before I type them up. Sometimes I write scenes. Sometimes I write chapters. Sometimes I don't even know what I'm writing about! I try not to censor myself in a rough draft. Yeah, a lot of it might be total crap, but that's okay. You can fix crap. There are always more words you can write. I've scrapped thousands of words. Sometimes it's painful. Sometimes it's fun. Nine times out of ten, it's necessary! It's part of the process - you got to wade through the muck to get to the good stuff.
Recently, I started using a synopsis to help me plot out what needs to happen to get from beginning to end. I don't always stick to it, but I've found it helpful to have a framework to refer to, no matter how flimsy it is!


4. How do you recover from a writing slump or writer’s block?

I don't really believe in writer's block, but I do understand a slump. The best way to fight it is to establish a routine. Easier said than done, of course! Because I'm a horrible Virgo, I love order and routine and making lists and checking off boxes. I will say that if you want to having a writing career you need discipline. There will always be a million other things to distract you - cleaning, cooking, laundry, working at a day job, taking care of kids, Netflix binge watching, all the daily dross that steals your time and saps your creativity. It's up to you to MAKE time. No one will do that for you. You have to decide it's important enough, that it's what you want. If you have to get up at 5 am to write for an hour before getting ready for work, then that's what you have to do. Most published authors still have day jobs - it's only a very small percentage of authors who pay the bills with only their writing. If you want to get rich you should probably become a hedge fund manager.


5. What do you struggle with the most in writing and/or in real life?


I think the thing I struggle most with as a writer is the same thing everyone does. Time. As I get older it seems to go faster - actually, I think it's a scientific fact that some physicist proved! Days and weeks and months can slip away - it's easier for me to see it now that I have a child who is literally growing before my eyes! The book I'm reading now by Anthony Doerr titled All the Light We Cannot See reminds me of that struggle. I read that Mr. Doerr took ten years to write that book! That makes me feel both amazed and reassured. It's okay if things take a long time as long as we keep moving forward and taking steps in the right direction - keeping our eyes on the prize, so to speak. And to know that the creation of something is the important thing, no matter the final outcome. Not every book you write will get published, but that doesn't mean it was a waste of time.


6. Do you read your reviews? How do you deal with negative comments and how do they affect you?

I do read some reviews. I'm old enough now that bad reviews don't bother me; I honestly appreciate the time someone took to give a critique, and there's always something to take away and learn from. Not everyone is going to like your book and that's okay! Of course, it's hard not to take it personally. It would be like someone saying, "Hey, don't take this personally, but your kids are ugly and stupid." Uh, okay. Hmm, no problem. It's a good thing I have a sense of humor! For me, I'm more affected if someone thinks the writing is bad. I realize not everyone is going to like the characters or the story itself, and honestly, some characters are not meant to be liked, but I care very much about the technical aspect of writing, and that, thankfully, is something that can be improved with practice!


ABOUT THE BOOK


Avalanche
by Melinda Braun
Hardcover
Simon Pulse
Released 11/29/2016

Two groups of teens—those waiting to be saved and those doing the saving—are in a race against time and a battle against Mother Nature after an avalanche traps them in an isolated cabin in this chilling novel.

“I promise it’ll be a weekend you’ll never forget.”

A trip like that is exactly what Matt was hoping for—a fun adventure. A daring escape. A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to go cross country skiing in a thrilling but dangerous pass through the Rocky Mountains. The perfect way for Matt to forget about his disappointing father and maybe let loose a little with his best friend and a group of carefree adrenaline junkies.

But then their guide takes them off-path…and straight into an avalanche. By the time they make it safely into an abandoned cabin, one skier is dead and another severely injured. Trapped with no heat, no water, and no radio the group decides to wait it out. Help will come. It has to.

Until it doesn’t. And Matt knows if they wait any longer they’ll be dead—just another bunch of victims in Mother Nature’s twisted games. Armed with only a handful of supplies and his fierce determination Matt decides to goes head-to-head with the elements, battling hypothermia, frostbite, and even mountain lions in order to find help and save them all. That is if Mother Nature doesn’t kill him first.



ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Even though her name is Melinda nobody EVER calls her that. At least, not since she was a kid and she pushed her little sister down the stairs in the clothes hamper. She is Mindy. She grew up in Wisconsin, but now lives in Minnesota. She likes long walks on the beach, coffee and donuts, both dogs and cats, but not guinea pigs because their little red eyes give her the creeps. Her favorite color is pool blue and her favorite animal is an owl.

She watched too much of The Benny Hill show and Monty Python's Flying Circus at a tender age, which explains my wrong sense of humor. 

Also, that is not her vineyard. Not yet, anyway...  




2 comments:

  1. Thanks for your advice and honesty, Melinda!

    ReplyDelete
  2. I like your tip about having a routine and sticking to it! For encouragement, set goals and give yourself small rewards for reaching each of them. It also helps to tell others about your goals, to be held accountable.

    ReplyDelete

Tell us what you think. We'd love to hear from you! :)